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Tuesday, August 14, 2012

The Oil Change Debacle

Yesterday I decided to get my oil changed. It's the first time that I've gone myself to get it changed here in Panama, but I figured, even with my limited Spanish, something as simple as an oil change shouldn't be much of a challenge. Wrong. 

I pulled in to this auto maintenance place on the side of the road because I read their sign stating they changed oil. In Spanish that's "cambio de aceite." I pulled in, drove up to one of the attendants, and asked how much. He said $8. That seemed pretty cheap to me. I think I remember paying somewhere around $20 in the U.S.

So I stepped out of the car, handed him my keys, and he put my car up on the lift. He asked me if I needed a filter. That was new to me. I'm used to the attendant taking a look first and then telling me I need a new filter. So I said, "No se." That's I don't know in Spanish. He nodded his head and went back to work. I had my 7 year old daughter with me, who was complaining about being thirsty, so I told the guy I'd be right back and that I was headed over to Super 99 (one of the major supermarkets here). 

We walked over to the supermarket, bought something to drink, then headed back. The attendant then asked me if I'd bought oil. What? Again, this was a first for me. I've never bought oil and taken it to the oil change myself. Usually they have it there on hand and just charge me the overall cost of everything. So I kind of laughed and told him I hadn't bought oil. He seemed a little surprised, but then dipped into the main office and came back out with a gallon of oil for $25. That seemed expensive to me. I was adding up $25 for the oil plus $8 for the oil change and about $8 for the filter replacement. I was looking at over $40 just for an oil change. 

I walked back to the Super 99 to check the cost of oil and see if it would cost less to buy four quarts myself. In the end, the cost would have come out to about the same, so I just told him to go ahead and use his oil. It took about a half-hour in total to get the job done. 

Finally, the guy handed me the bill. I have no idea how the final charge came out to $20. With tax I think I paid $21 and change. He mentioned something about a promotion. Still...a full day later, I have no idea how what I thought was going to come out to over $40 wound up costing only $21. 

I'm happy with the overall price, but I definitely learned my lesson. Next time I'll make sure I bring the oil with me...and maybe a Spanish to English dictionary too.